Friday, August 21, 2009

Stone on Showtime

Showtime says filmmaker Oliver Stone is producing a 10-part documentary series on what he calls the secret history of America.

According to Associated Press, the series will focus on events of the past 60 years that went underreported when they took place but crucially shaped the nation’s history.

Showtime says newly discovered information on the Kennedy administration, the Vietnam War and America’s role in the world since the fall of communism will be explored.

Mr. Stone, 62, the Academy Award-winning director of “Platoon” and “Born on the Fourth of July,” will serve as executive producer and narrator for the series. It’s set to debut next year on Showtime.

Prime-time return

Emmy-winning actress Shelley Long has joined the cast of ABC’s new sitcom “Modern Family,” says, citing a report from

Miss Long won an Emmy for her role as Diane Chambers on “Cheers,” the 1980s NBC smash. The show also spun off “Frasier,” which was created by Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd, the same men behind “Modern Family.”

Miss Long will appear on “Modern Family” as Ed O’Neill’s ex-wife.

BBC replays Lehman

James Cromwell (“Babe,” “Six Feet Under,” “L.A. Confidential”) will play former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson in a new BBC drama-documentary about the spectacular collapse of Lehman Brothers, Variety reports.

“The Last Days of Lehman Brothers” depicts the events of the weekend of Sept. 12, 2008, when the U.S. investment bank crashed, leading to a new crisis in the world’s financial system.

Corey Johnson, whose work includes roles in “United 93” and “The Bourne Ultimatum,” will portray Richard S. Fuld Jr., the Lehman chief executive known as “the scariest man on Wall Street” but sidelined by a boardroom coup.

U.K.-based screenwriter Craig Warner has scripted the hourlong show. His credits include the TV biopic “Maxwell,” about disgraced press tycoon Robert Maxwell, and another fictionalized slice of recent history, “The Queen’s Sister,” the story of Princess Margaret’s racy private life.

“The Last Days of Lehman Brothers” will air in the fall on the BBC in the United Kingdom, Variety says.

An Emmy for Aldrin

Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin is taking a trip to the Emmys.

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences said Mr. Aldrin, part of the 1969 moon mission, will accept the Philo T. Farnsworth Award on behalf of NASA at the Emmy engineering awards on Saturday, Associated Press reports.

The honor, named for the inventor of television, recognizes an agency, company or institution whose contributions affected the state of TV technology and engineering.

NASA is receiving the award for innovations that enabled the Apollo crew’s live TV broadcast from the moon.

The main Emmy Awards ceremony airs Sept. 20 on CBS.

Torres in on ‘Gossip’

Gina Torres will appear on the CW’s “Gossip Girl” this fall as Vanessa’s mom, reports.

Gabriela Abrams, mother to home-schooled Vanessa, is described as being warm and outgoing, which certainly will be a change of pace for this show, not exactly known for paragons of parental virtue. The character also is described as a free spirit, a former Brooklynite who lives in Vermont.

Miss Torres, wife of “CSI” star Laurence Fishburne, is best known for her roles on “Alias” and “Firefly”- though she also had a recent blink-and-you-miss-it cameo on “Pushing Daisies” as the wayward mom of Emerson’s (Chi McBride) daughter.

Gabriela Abrams is scheduled to appear in two episodes but will be a recurring character on the series. “Gossip Girl” returns for its third season at 9 p.m. Sept. 14.

Sundance VOD

Cable television’s Sundance Channel on Monday unveiled a video-on-demand service offering documentaries and international films endorsed by Sundance festival founder Robert Redford. They often will be available the day the movies hit theaters.

Sundance Selects will make its debut Wednesday with Spike Lee’s new documentary, “Passing Strange: The Movie,” reports. The service will be available on cable TV systems owned by three major operators — Comcast Corp., Cox Communications and Cablevision Systems Corp.- reaching as many as 50 million U.S. households, MediaWeek notes.

For Sundance Channel, which plays films and shows aimed at fans of art-house and independent films and is owned by Cablevision unit Rainbow Media Holdings, a video-on-demand service provides new revenues in a growing business arena.

Also, indie-movie fans who live in smaller cities or towns that may not have art houses will be able to access documentaries and foreign-language films they only hear about from media coverage of festivals like Sundance.

“At Sundance, increasing the size of the market for independent film has always been our mission, in addition to just giving exposure to new voices, so this allows us to electronically take that vision to a broader group,” Mr. Redford said.

The actor, filmmaker and creative director of the Sundance Channel said he would be instrumental in helping program the films that will be available on Sundance Selects.

“Passing Strange: The Movie,” which premiered at the 2009 Sundance festival, captures on film the Tony-winning Broadway musical of the same name that tells of a young black man finding his way in life.

The Sundance VOD service will launch with five other titles: the animated film “Mary and Max,” from Australian director Adam Elliot; “Unmade Beds,” from Alexis Dos Santos; and the documentaries “Complete History of My Sexual Failures,” “Kassim the Dream” and “Nick Nolte: No Exit.”

The number of titles will increase as the service reaches more homes, and the focus on nonfiction and foreign-language films is designed to tap an underserved market, Rainbow Chief Executive Joshua Sapan said.

VOD transactions increased 20 percent from 2007 to 2008. Though the rate of growth slipped in the first six months of this year, the increase still was 12 percent over the year-earlier period, according to industry tracker Rentrak Corp.

Whitney to visit O

Multiple Grammy-winner Whitney Houston will chat with Oprah Winfrey on the media mogul’s Sept. 14 show.

The interview follows the Aug. 31 release of the highly touted. “I Look to You,” Miss Houston’s first album release in seven years.

Locally, “The Oprah Winfrey Show” is seen weekdays at 4 p.m. on WJLA-ABC7.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from staff, Web and wire reports

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